Requesting Entity: 911 Alarm, Inc.
Issues Concern: Public Monitoring of Procurement Process
1. Whether or not bidders may be allowed by the procuring entity to record all the activities that take place during Pre-Bid Conference and Submission and Opening.
At the outset, this office maintains the view that, while access to official records may not be prohibited, it may be regulated, inasmuch as the right to information of public concern is a constitutionally enshrined principle. This regulatory discretion includes both the determination of what is of public concern and the manner of access to such information, as well as the observance of restrictions on disclosure of information.
It is clear from the foregoing [Legazpi vs. CSC (G.R. No. 72119, 1987)] that the procuring government entity does not have the authority to prohibit access by the bidders to bidding documents and activities which, in the determination of the former, are matters of public concern. Thus, the procuring entity cannot prohibit the bidders from attending, observing, and even participating in the Pre-Bid Conference and the Submission and Opening Bids.
2. If answer to No. 1 is in the affirmative, whether or not there are restrictions in the manner of recording the same.
The manner in which the bidders would like to record the Pre-Bid Conference and the Submission and Opening of Bids, such as, manually by taking down notes, or electronically through audio or video, would be subject to the sound regulatory discretion of the procuring entity. Said entity may, thus, restrict the recording of the subject procurement proceedings to mere taking down notes or audio recordings, without violating the right of the bidders to access public information.
3. Whether or not bidders can be denied access to copies of recordings made by the procuring entity.
Should the procuring entity decide to record the proceedings using audio or video technology, access to such recordings is likewise subject to reasonable regulations to be determined by the procuring entity. Thus, it may be the case that the procuring entity would refuse access to such electronically-recorded proceedings, but nonetheless allow bidders to get copies of the minutes thereof, upon payment of reasonable fees, and pursuant to a prior written request by the bidder.
In the event, the procuring entity must ensure that bidders or their representatives are allowed to attend the subject procurement proceedings, as well as make the minutes of said proceedings available, in keeping with the principles of transparency and public monitoring espoused by RA 9184 and its IRR-A.